Edible Exposure: Food and Photography Class

13 Sep

I think I’ve missed my calling: food photography (aka food pornographer).  As I mentioned in my last post, my research fellowship has given me quite a bit of free time that I have been filling with both old (cooking/baking/eating) and new (photography) hobbies.  In my quest to completely fill my free time with something meaningful, I turned the to Boston Center for Adult Education’s (BCAE) fall curriculum of food related classes.  I had taken a few classes at their old location on Commonwealth Ave. but had not had the time to try out a class at their gorgeous new space on Arlington St.  I was excited to see that they had a “celebrity chef” series with well-known Boston area chefs taking charge of the classes.  I was of course immediately drawn to the class entitled Edible Exposure: Food and Photography with Michael Scelfo.  Not only did I want to learn more about food and photography, but Michael Scelfo is the owner and chef at one of my favorite local restaurants, Alden and Harlow, nominated for one of Bon Appetit’s best new restaurants of 2014.  I immediately signed up and was lucky to get a spot in this intimate class for 12.

The class started on a Tuesday evening at 6PM and we were greeted by representatives from 90+ Cellars wine who immediately poured us glasses of wine, picked especially for this dinner.  Once we were settled in (and slightly more relaxed), Michael gave a brief overview of food photography.  The class was geared towards using an iPhone (or smart phone) and various iPhone apps to edit the photos.  I, of course, couldn’t resist bringing my new “toy” (Nikon D5300) but learned a lot about different apps that can be used to edit the photos. I was pretty impressed that he does all the photography and editing that he posts on social media himself (Twitter: @mscelfo, @aldenharlow; Instagram: @mscelfo, @aldenharlow)- he takes some amazing food photos!

He then introduced his 2 sous chefs that he brought along to make our dinner that night.

On the menu:

I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed that we didn’t actually get to make any of the dishes (or at least get the recipes!), but it would have been an ambitious feat for a 3 hour class.  Plus, how can you complain about a private dinner and photography lesson (with wine) from Michael Scelfo?

The first dish was the spicy shishito peppers…and spicy they were!  Normally 1 in 10 peppers are spicy but I got “lucky” and at least 75% of mine were hot!!!!  For this photo with lots of shades of green, he showed us how to improve it’s appearance by turning down the “warmth” feature in Instagram. Decreasing the warmth brought in more blue tones to deepen the green color.

The next course was the charred broccoli with squash hummus.

This may have been my favorite dish of the night.  (My next mission will be to try to recreate that hummus!)  With this dish, he showed us how to use the app “color splash” which allows you to highlight one or two colors in a photo while leaving the rest black and white to really emphasize the main focus of the photo (in this case the food).

(photo courtesy of Michael Scelfo)

The final dish was the trenne pasta (a triangle shaped penne type pasta), a new menu item at Alden and Harlow.  The pasta was perfectly cooked and paired with guanciale, cherry tomatoes and finally anchovy crumbs for a texture contrast and umami type flavor.  This dish was full of color and therefore perfect for photos.  After taking photos of this final course, he showed us how to use the app “pic frame” to create a collage of the night’s dishes (see above).

Overall, this was a super fun (and tasty) class full of great food and helpful photo tips.  I can’t wait to try them out for my blog photos…and to return to Alden and Harlow for the amazing food!

Rustic Peach Crostata

6 Sep

 

This July I started a 2 year hiatus from the craziness of residency to pursue a research fellowship in surgical oncology.  It has been quite an adjustment to go from running around the hospital for 24 (often 30) hours straight without eating, drinking or sleeping to sitting at a desk and reading and entering data.  I also get to wear “normal” clothes now (aka not scrubs) and people around the hospital no longer recognize me (I’m not sure what this says about my general appearance for the past 3 years…).  This “slower” pace of life as given me A LOT more free time that I have been filling with spinning and barre classes, cooking/baking, going to the beach, exploring as much of the Boston restaurant scene as my waistband and wallet will allow, and catching up with friends I’ve neglected for the past 3 years.  But alas, I decided I still didn’t have enough to do so I decided to pick up a fancy new hobby- photography!

I have always had an interest in photography and took a black and white photography class in high school where we developed our own prints.  However, recently my idea of photography has been my iPhone and instagram.  While I have taken some great pictures this way, I decided it was finally time for an upgrade.  For my 30th birthday present, my parents and I joined forces to purchase a DSLR camera.  After much research, I settled on the Nikon D5300- a compact and relatively lightweight, higher end entry-level DSLR camera.

I’ve been experimenting with it for the past week all over Boston and so far I love it!

 

 

After a week of experimentation, I decided it was finally time to put it to the test for my blog.  I threw around a few ideas for my camera’s debut blog entry and finally settled on something that was both seasonal and aesthetically pleasing: a rustic peach crostata. Not only were the peaches fun to photograph, but the spiral design of the crostata, which gets hidden a bit in the final product, is actually quite beautiful.

What’s great about crostatas is that if you have trouble with pie crusts (like I do), you don’t have to worry- the whole point of the crostata is to look a bit rustic and imperfect.  This recipe is adapted from an apple crostata recipe that actually comes from a Kosher cookbook (Kosher by Design).  Feel free to substitute other firm fruits (such as apples, pears, plums) for a variation.  My favorite thing about this recipe is that it adds a streusel layer (both on the bottom and top) for extra crunch and flavor (mmmmmm butter and brown sugar).  It is best served warm with a side of ice cream (try corn, mascarpone, or salted caramel ice cream to create an interesting flavor contrast).

Rustic Peach Crostata

(adapted from Kosher by Design)

Crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbs sugar
2 sticks (1 cup, 16 Tbs) unsalted butter, cold, cut into about 8 pieces
4-5 Tbs ice water

Streusel:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup old fashioned oats (not quick cooking or instant)
6 Tbs melted butter

Peach Filling:
5-6 peaches medium peaches (6 if you’re like me and eat about the equivalent of one peach in peach slices that weren’t pretty enough to photograph)
1/4 cup sugar
4 Tbs all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp salt
3 Tbs apricot preserves
1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tsp water or milk

For the crust:

In a food processor, pulse flour, salt, and sugar 2-3 times until mixed.  Add the diced, chilled butter.  Pulse until mixture resembles peas.  Add the ice water 1 Tbs at a time until the dough comes together.

Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper.  Knead briefly to bring together in a ball and flatten slightly into a disc.   Refrigerate for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

For the streusel:

In the meantime make the streusel by combining all ingredients in a small bowl and mixing with a fork until it comes together.  Set aside.

For the peaches:

Peel, pit and slice the peaches.

In a large bowl, combine the peaches, flour, sugar, ginger and salt.  Toss gently to coat.  Set aside.

To assemble the crostata:

Preheat the oven to 375.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator and set on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper.  Roll the dough into a 14-15 inch circle.

Leaving a 3 inch border, spread the apricot preserves over the center of the dough.  Sprinkle evenly with 3/4 of streusel topping.  Next, starting at the outer edge and working your way into the center, lay the peach slices in concentric circles, going around and adding layers until the peaches are used.  Sprinkle with remaining streusel.  Using the parchment to help, fold the dough border over the peaches, turning as needed.  The dough will cover 2-3 inches of filling.  Slide crostata carefully on the parchment paper onto rimless baking sheet.  Brush exposed dough with beaten egg yolk.

Bake for 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and carefully cover dough with foil to prevent burning.  Bake for another 20-30 minutes until crust is golden brown and peaches are bubbling.  Let cool for about an hour before cutting and serving.

Blueberry Muffins with Streusel Topping

17 Aug

After a day at the beach followed by a night drinking rosé at a rooftop bar, it can be hard to wake up at 5AM for a 24 hour Sunday shift at the hospital.  Luckily, freshly baked blueberry muffins make everything (a little) better.  These muffins are adapted from Joanne Chang’s Flour bakery cookbook but I added a streusel topping for an extra special morning treat (and because everyone needs a little extra butter and sugar in the morning!).  The flavor of these muffins is also enhanced by the addition of lemon zest and cinnamon- subtle, yet an excellent complement to the sweet and tart blueberries.  These were definitely a bright spot in a hectic morning and it was only a matter of hours before they were polished off!

Blueberry Muffins with Streusel Topping

(adapted from Joanne Chang’s Blueberry Muffins)
(makes 18 muffins)

For the muffins:

Vegetable oil or cooking spray for the pan
3-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp. table salt
1-1/3 cups granulated sugar
5 oz. (10 Tbs.) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1 cup crème fraîche or sour cream, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1-1/2 cups fresh (washed, dried, and picked over) or frozen (no need to thaw) blueberries

For the streusel topping:
3/8 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup old fashioned oatmeal
pinch of salt
1/2 stick (or 4 tbs) cold un-salted butter, diced

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil (or spray with cooking spray) the top of a standard 12-cup muffin tin and then line with paper or foil baking cups. (Spraying the pan keeps the muffin tops from sticking to the pan’s surface.)

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; mix well. In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar, butter, milk, crème fraîche or sour cream, eggs, egg yolk, and zest until well combined.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and fold gently with a rubber spatula just until the dry ingredients are mostly moistened; the batter will be lumpy, and there should still be quite a few streaks of dry flour. Sprinkle the blueberries on the batter and fold them in until just combined. (The batter will still be lumpy; don’t try to smooth it out or you’ll overmix.)

If you have an ice cream scoop with a “sweeper” in it, use it to fill the muffin cups. Otherwise, use two spoons to spoon the batter in, distributing all of the batter evenly. The muffin cups should be filled to the top.

Combine all streusel ingredients in either a food processor or small bowl.  If using a food processor, pulse until ingredients come together in pea sized pieces and mixture is crumbly.  If you don’t have a food processor, just mix ingredients together using pastry cutter, 2 forks or fingers until you achieve that crumbly texture.

Sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the tops of each muffin.

Bake until the muffins are golden brown and spring back lightly when you press the middle, 30 to 35 minutes. (The muffin tops will probably meld together.) Let the muffin tin cool on a rack for 15 to 20 minutes. Use a table knife to separate the tops, and then remove from the pan.

Cooking Lessons: Seared Ahi Tuna Salad

8 Aug

I am often approached by friends asking for cooking or baking lessons.  While this sounds like a good idea in theory, I must admit, I’m a little “Type A” in the kitchen which can make relinquishing control to a new “student” a little difficult (especially if I plan on taking beautiful pictures for a future blog post!).  However, I decided to give it a shot for once.  My friend requested learning how to make something relatively simple but “healthy”.  Now those of you who follow my blog (or who have been lucky enough to sample my culinary masterpieces) may laugh at the idea of me making anything healthy, but I promise you it is possible!  This salad was inspired by the seared tuna salad at the Hillstone with some minor variations to suit my picky friend.

Below are some of the basic techniques, definitions, and tips I taught my friend in order to compose this salad:

Chopping- When food, generally vegetables/herbs, are cut into smaller uniform pieces but not as small as if it were minced (see next)

Mincing- Cutting food, such as garlic or ginger, into the tiniest pieces possible

Julienning- This refers to cutting food, generally vegetables such as carrot or zucchini, into long match-stick like pieces.  Often used to cut vegetables for a slaw. You can do this by hand (which is tedious), use a special mandolin grater, or buy a special julienning vegetable peeler.

Searing-This is when food, such as meat or fish (aka tuna) is cooked over really high heat to get a nice sear or caramelization on the outside of the meat.  

Vinaigrette- Generally this refers to a salad dressing but it can also be used as a marinade.  It is typically composed of 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar or acid.  I generally use citrus juice or other vinegars (balsamic, sherry, champagne) for my acid and olive oil for my oil.  In the following Asian inspired vinaigrette I also introduced soy sauce and rice wine vinegar for some acidity and sesame oil.  It is also great to balance out the flavor with some sweetness from honey.  You can use sugar too but the honey also acts as an emulsifier to bring your vinaigrette together (dijon mustard also works as an emulsifier).  Finally, you can add herbs and other flavors such as garlic, shallots, basil, cilantro etc.  Finish with salt and pepper to taste and test the final product by trying on a piece of lettuce dipped into the vinaigrette.

The below vinaigrette would be great on salmon, chicken or shrimp.  You can also add different vegetables (red pepper, snap peas) or fruit (mango, mandarin wedges) to the salad as you please.

While the lesson somewhat deteriorated into more of a demonstration while my friend watched and drank wine, overall I’d call it a success!

Seared Ahi Tuna Salad

(serves 4)

Start by making the vinaigrette to the give the flavors time to marinate together.

Cilantro, Honey, Lime Vinaigrette 

1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs sesame oil
1 Tbs rice wine vinegar
3 Tbs honey
1 Tbs freshly minced ginger
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil

Whisk the first 5 ingredients (lime juice through honey) in a medium bowl.  Mix in the ginger and cilantro.  Slowly whisk in olive oil until thoroughly emulsified.  Taste to see if you need salt- because of the soy sauce you may find you don’t need it.  Allow to sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.  You will likely need to re-whisk before serving.

Salad

8 oz of mixed baby lettuces (you can use anything you wish here although I’d recommend using against something with lots of flavor such as arugula, I used a mix of frisee and red lettuce but a pre-washed container of mixed lettuce or spinach would work just fine)
2 avocados, halved and sliced
2 tomatoes, cut into about 8 wedges each (can also use halved cherry tomatoes)
chopped cashews or nut of your choosing to top the salad

Toss the lettuce with about 3/4 of the vinaigrette.  Reserve the remaining to drizzle on the tune.  Divide the salad onto one half of 4 plates.  Top each with 1/4 of the avocado slices, tomato wedges and cashews.

Seared Ahi Tuna

4 5 oz fresh tuna steaks (each about 3/4 to 1 inch thick)
1 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
salt and pepper

Generously salt and pepper each side of the tuna.  Heat both oils in a 12 inch skillet on high heat until a drop of water sizzles.  Add the tuna steaks and cook until browned on each side about 1-2 minutes, so that it is still raw on the inside.

Let it rest on a cutting board for about 5 minutes.  Slice AGAINST THE GRAIN (or else it will fall apart) and place next to the salad.  Drizzle with remaining vinaigrette. Bon appetit!

A Duo of Ice Creams: Blueberry Lavender Chip and Salty Caramel Peanut Chip

4 Aug

I’ve been on a bit of an ice cream making kick recently.  It started in June when I was rotating on the burn surgery service.  To minimize heat loss from critically ill burn patients, the operating room is kept heated at a balmy 100 degrees.  While this is good for the patient, after  3 (or 7) hours it starts to make the surgeon  (aka me) a bit delirious (or just outright cray cray).  Thus, I instituted Ice Cream Fridays to have something sweet and COLD to look forward to at the end of the week.

Although I am no longer on the burn service, the temperature outside the operating room has risen prompting me to continue my ice cream making (although really I need no excuse to make ice cream!).

Last month I took advantage of in-season blueberries to create Blueberry Lavender Chip Ice Cream.  This recipe is a variation on the Wildberry Lavender Ice Cream by Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream.  I did not have essence of lavender oil as called for in the original recipe so instead used some dried lavender flowers I had previously purchased to add a subtle lavender undertone.  I then added white and dark chocolate chips for texture and because everything is better with chocolate!  The result is a beautiful purple, creamy ice cream studded with crunchy rich white and dark chocolate chunks with a mild floral aftertaste from the lavender.

My next creation was also a spin on a Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream flavor.  I started with her Salty Caramel Ice Cream (with a little extra salt added) and then added roasted peanuts and dark chocolate.  The combination of the salt, caramel, chocolate and peanuts is reminiscent of a Snicker’s bar…in a sophisticated and semi-frozen form.

If you want to have fun with ice cream this summer (or anytime) I highly recommend checking out Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream cookbook (I promise I am not sponsored by them!).  The recipes are fairly straight forward and easy to make with a wide variety of flavor combinations!

Blueberry Lavender Chip Ice Cream

(adapted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream)

1/2 cup wild blueberries, fresh or frozen
2/3 cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar, divided
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
3 oz of cream cheese, softened
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup light corn syrup
Pinch of dried lavender flowers
3 oz each chopped white and dark chocolate

For the blueberries:
Combine blueberries and 2 Tablespoons sugar in a small saucepan over low heat.  Bring mixture to a boil and stir until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat, set aside and cool.

Prep
Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Cook
Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar,  corn syrup, and dried lavender in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

Chill
Gradually pour hot milk mixture through a strainer and into the cream cheese mixture, whisking as you pour until smooth.  Add blueberry sauce and stir until combined.  Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.

Freeze
Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy.  Just before the ice cream is done, add in the white and dark chocolate chunks and spin until thoroughly mixed.

Salty Caramel Peanut Chip Ice Cream

(adapted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream)

2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
3 oz of cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup + 1 Tbs light corn syrup
4 oz. salted and roasted peanuts
4 oz. chopped dark chocolate

 

Prep
Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Cook

DISCLAIMER FROM JENI’S SPLENDID ICE CREAM:

Danger! This is the dry-burn technique. I don’t add water to the sugar before putting it on the heat, as some chefs do. Caramelizing sugar dry means it goes faster, but you have to watch it more closely and be ready with your cream. Here is an overview of what you are going to do:

Stand over the pan of sugar with a heatproof spatula ready, but do not touch the sugar until there is a full layer of melted and browning liquid sugar on the bottom with a smaller layer of unmelted white sugar on the top. When the edges of the melted sugar begin to darken, use the spatula to bring them into the center to help melt the unmelted sugar. Continue stirring and pushing the sugar around until it is all melted and evenly amber in color-like an old penny. When little bubbles begin to explode with dark smoke, give the sugar another moment and then remove from the heat. Immediately but slowly pour about 14 cup of the cream and corn syrup mixture into the burning-hot sugar. Be careful! It will pop and spit! Stir until it is incorporated, then add a bit more cream and stir, then continue until it is all in.

********************************************************************************************************************************************************

Heat the sugar in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat until it is melted and golden amber in color (see note above). Remove from the heat and, stirring constantly, slowly add a bit of the cream and corn syrup mixture to the caramel: It will fizzle, pop, and spurt. Stir until well combined, then add a little more and stir. Keep adding the cream a little at a time until all of it is incorporated.

Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the milk. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.

Bring back to a boil over medium-high and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. If any caramel flecks remain, pour the mixture through a sieve.

Chill
Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese mixture until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.

Freeze
Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy.  Just before the ice cream is done, add the peanuts and chocolate chunks and spin until mixed in.

Gnocchi with peas, mushrooms, and truffle oil

15 Jul

Summer is truly here in Massachusetts and with it comes bountiful, fresh, local produce. I am lucky to have close friends who belong to a CSA/farm share and invite me to participate in their weekly “harvest” dinners utilizing this amazing summer produce! (I obviously contribute dessert) An added bonus of their CSA is that they are allowed to go out to the farm in western Massachusetts to pick seasonal fruits and vegetables. I was fortunate enough the other week to be invited along to “pick our own” peas and strawberries!

And by pick peas and strawberries I really mean that I ate at least 2 for every 1 I picked… (strawberry stained hands not pictured below)

Inspired by a recent gnocchi and pea dish at Sportello in Boston, I decided to emulate it with my freshly picked and shelled peas!  I had never made gnocchi before but decided it couldn’t be that hard…turns out it is a littler harder than I expected, especially when you don’t have the right equipment.

I have long scoffed “uni-taskers” aka kitchen gadgets that only serve one purpose, such as a panini press,and similarly was skeptical about purchasing a potato ricer.  Therefore I was excited to find a smitten kitchen recipe for gnocchi that said you could use a box grater instead to grate the potatoes.  However, after making these once, I have now invested in a potato ricer!  Hand grating potatoes for a double batch of gnocchi was quite time and energy consuming.  I actually almost threw the grated potatoes out and purchased already made gnocchi because I feared my gooey hand grated potatoes would never turn into gnocchi.  But I persevered and somehow, with the addition of eggs, a lot of flour, and a lot of elbow grease, made something that resembled and, more importantly, tasted like gnocchi!  (Note: I ended up needing a lot more flour to get dough that was workable and not too sticky)

The gnocchi only take about 2 minutes to cook in boiling water and can be made a few hours ahead of time.  Just lay the cooked gnocchi on a parchment lined baking sheet to stop the cooking process and keep at room temperature until ready to eat.  Then add to your sauce for a few minutes to reheat before serving.

The soft, fluffy gnocchi paired perfectly with a light mushroom cream sauce and the fresh, just cooked peas for a burst of color and texture.  The dish was then finished with a drizzle of truffle oil (optional but really makes the dish) and parmesan cheese.  Strawberry and peach crisp with sweet corn ice cream rounded out the meal for a perfect summer harvest dinner!

 

Gnocchi with peas, mushrooms, and truffle oil

(serves about 4)

For the Gnocchi (from smitten kitchen):

2 pounds (905 grams) Russet potatoes (3 to 4)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon table salt
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups (156 to 190 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting surface

For the sauce:

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more
10 oz of fresh mushrooms of a variety (crimini, oyster, shitake, etc.)
1/4 cup sherry, port, or medeira wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup shelled fresh peas (from about 1 pound pods) or frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup reserved cooking liquid from gnocchi
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbs. Chopped fresh chives
4 oz. finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
drizzle of truffle oil

For the gnocchi:

Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Bake potatoes for 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on size, until a thin knife can easily pierce through them.

Let the potatoes cool for 10 minutes after baking, then peel them with a knife or a peeler (PSA from your friendly burn surgeon: DO NOT BURN YOURSELF). Run the potatoes through a potato ricer or grate them on the large holes of a box grater (Based on my first experience I would recommend purchasing a potato ricer). Cool them to lukewarm, about another 10 minutes. Add the egg and salt, mixing to combine. Add 1/2 cup flour, and mix to combine. Add the next 1/2 cup flour, mixing again. Add 1/4 cup flour, and see if this is enough to form a dough that does not easily stick to your hands. If not, add the last 1/4 cup of flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough is soft but only a little sticky, and able to hold its shape enough to be rolled into a rope. Knead the dough together briefly, gently, on a counter, just for a minute. (You may need to add even more flour to get the right consistency as I did)

Divide the dough into quarters. Roll each piece into a long rope, about 3/4-inch thick. Cut each rope into 3/4-inch lengths. At this point, you can use a floured fork or a gnocchi board to give each piece the traditional ridges (this step is just for looks but is definitely not necessary and I skipped it). Place the gnocchi on a a parchment-lined tray.

[Do ahead: If you'd like to freeze gnocchi for later user, do so on this tray. Once they are frozen, drop them into a freezer bag until needed. No need to defrost before cooking them; it will just take a minute or two longer.]

Place the gnocchi, a quarter-batch at a time, into a pot of boiling well-salted water. Cook the gnocchi until they float — about 2 minutes — then drain but make sure to reserve at least 1/2 cup cooking liquid for the sauce.

For the sauce and final product:

Heat the 2 tbs of oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Saute mushrooms until slightly softened, about 3-5 minutes.  Add the wine and cook until reduced by half.  Add the heavy cream and stir to combine.

Add the cooked gnocchi, peas, butter, and reserved cooking liquid and stir to combine.  Cook for about 2 minutes until gnocchi is heated through.  Salt and pepper to taste and then add chives, parmesan cheese, lemon zest and truffle oil.

Serve and top with additional parmesan if desired.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

8 Jul

With the announcement today that Crumbs Bake Shop is closing all of its stores, I decided a commemorative cupcake blog post was in order.  While the cupcake craze may be on a decline, I will never tire of these mini, tasty treats.  As the saying goes “Good things come in small packages”.  Perhaps I am just partial to this given my own petite size… But really?  Cake, frosting, perhaps a surprise filling,  all in one small, portable serving…what’s not to love?

These chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes are especially delectable and were the perfect way to celebrate my last 24 hour shift in the emergency room this year.  I work with some incredible doctors, physician assistants and nurses in the emergency room and brought these in as a way to thank them for all of their hard work and for keeping me sane during my four months of every other day, 24 hour call.

A word of warning…with all the butter that goes into creating these cupcakes, one cupcake alone may be enough to actually send you to the emergency room! There are 3 components to the cupcakes and they all involve butter!  The process begins by making an egg-less cookie dough that is frozen ahead of time.  These frozen cookie dough balls are then placed into a brown-sugar based cupcake batter.  Once in the oven, the frozen cookie dough starts to bake but retains its soft, dough-like texture that is the highlight of the cupcake.  Finally, the cupcake  is topped with a brown sugar frosting and sprinkled with mini chocolate chips.  The final product is a pretty rich cupcake that has the flavor of chocolate chip cookies in every component.  While, as a doctor, I wouldn’t recommend eating one every day, they are the perfect special occasion treat!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

(recipe from kevinandamanda.com, makes 24 cupcakes)

For the cookie dough:
2 sticks softened butter
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips

For the cupcakes:
3 sticks softened butter
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the frosting:
3 sticks softened butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tablespoons milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

To make the cookie dough, combine the butter and sugars in a mixing bowl and cream on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 mins. Beat in milk and vanilla until incorporated and smooth. Beat in the flour and salt until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. Using a 1.5 tablespoon scoop, shape the dough into 24 balls. Freeze on a parchment lined baking sheet overnight.

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners (24 total).  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and brown sugar.  Beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.  Stir together to blend.  Add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl on low speed, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, mixing each addition just until incorporated.  Blend in the vanilla.

Using a 3 tablespoon scoop, fill the prepared cupcake liners 2/3 full with the cupcake batter. Place a frozen cookie dough ball on the top center of each cupcake.

Bake at 350 for 16-18 mins.

To make the frosting, combine the butter and brown sugar in a mixing bowl and cream on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.  Beat in the powdered sugar until smooth.  Beat in the salt, milk, and vanilla extract until smooth and combined.

Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with mini chocolate chips!

My French Heaven

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